Woman in Beit Shemesh Attacked by ultra-Orthodox Extremists

In latest incident sparked by 'immodest dress,' crowd of ultra-Orthodox men smash car of Natali Mashiah, 27, who says she believes they were going to set her on fire.

A woman was attacked in her car in Beit Shemesh Tuesday by ultra-Orthodox extremists - the latest in a series of incidents apparently sparked by what members of the town's Haredi community view as immodest dress.

A crowd of ultra-Orthodox men jumped on 27-year-old Natali Mashiah's car in the Haredi Ramat Beit Shemet Bet neighborhood, she said. Members of the crowd smashed her car windows and punctured her four tires before spilling bleach on the inside of her car, said the Beit Shemesh resident, adding that she believed the men were going to set her on fire. As she fled the car, she said she was hit on the head by a rock thrown from very close range.

Beit Shemesh attack on woman's car
Michal Fattal

Police arrested three suspects when they arrived on the scene, and searched the area for other suspects. Although a crowd was said to have gathered during the attack, no one reportedly came to Mashiah's assistance.

The incident follows the highly publicized case of 8-year-old Na'ama Margolese last month, who was reportedly spat at for her supposedly insufficiently modest dress despite the fact that she comes from a religious family.

In a separate incident about a week ago, a third-grade American immigrant boy was attacked in Beit Shemesh by a group of young Haredim as he walked home from school.

The incident occurred at about 1 P.M. when Mashiah came to the neighborhood for her work, in order to post advertisements. Mashiah parked her car and set out to hang the ads. "All of a sudden a man came up to me and called me a shikse [a derogatory term for a non-Jewish woman] and a slut," she said, and told her to leave.

Mashiah said she then called the police, who told her to remain there until a police cruiser came, she recounted. She said she was then immediately approached from several directions by about 10 ultra-Orthodox men carrying rocks and bottles. She ran to her car, she said, but before she could start the engine, they jumped on her car and started pounding on it.

She said she begged them to stop and promised to leave the area. She also called her brother, Omri, a company commander in the Givati Brigade who was at the family home at the time.

She said before help arrived members of the crowd smashed her car windows and punctured the tires, before someone spilled bleach on her. "I thought, this was it, this is the end, I am going to die," she said, adding, "The look in their eyes reminded me of the lynching in Ramallah," an apparent reference to a 2000 lynching by two Israeli reserve soldiers by a group of Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "I yelled to them, 'But I'm Jewish,'" she said. She said at that point one of the assailants leaned into the car and took the car keys.

Mashiah said she managed to get out of the car and started to flee the scene when she was hit on the head by a rock. She ran to a nearby building with members of the crowd in pursuit, but said that at that point the police cruiser arrived. "When they saw the lights of the police car, they ran away," she said.

At about the same time, Mashiah said, her brother arrived by cab. He said he was aware of what was happening before he got to the scene because he had been in constant contact with his sister from her cell phone. "I heard her screaming," he said. "I heard the sound of the smashing [windows]."